China BizCamp gives Korea b.o. pointers

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BUSAN, South Korea -- Koreans packed the room late Monday at the Asian Film Market's inaugural China BizCamp Conference, trying to learn from their visiting East Asian neighbors how to sell movies in a restrictive and piracy-stricken market.

China restricts to 20 the number of films allowed to share in boxoffice revenue each year and admits it is fighting a battle against the prevalence of foreign films available via illegal DVD.

Television is one solution, said Liu Shuang, director of acquisitions and sales at China Central Television's dedicated 24-hour movie channel, which boasts 700 million viewers.

"I hope Korean films will become a greater part of the mix of the hundreds of overseas titles we buy each year," Liu said.

Indeed, only eight Korean films have been released legally in China between 2000 and 2007, said Zhao Wu, vice general manager of Beijing-based production house Megajoy Pictures.

Korean director Bong Joon-ho's monster movie "The Host" -- bought for a flat fee from Seoul-based Showbox -- earned 15 million yuan ($1.9 million) at Chinese theaters this year, more than any other Korean title during the past seven years.

But pirated discs of "The Host" that cost less than $1 were widely available in China after its 2006 Korean release. Zhao said that the China Film Copyright Protection Assn. -- created by the 2005 merger of four government and industry bodies -- is striving to work with foreign film industries.

"The Chinese government must go to great lengths to enforce the law if the Chinese film industry is to maintain stable development," Zhao said.

Korean meeting attendees expressed hope that China, with which Korea shares much culture, would, as one observer put it, "get its act together. We have so much to offer them, but they're not organized enough to make it work."
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